How to Overcome a Low Communications Budget and Deliver Results

By Katlin Walters
July 2, 2019
5 min read

Communications departments tend to have a budget issue. Especially when it comes to internal communications, few companies devote the figures needed to maximize opportunities in reliably engaging and informing your employees. In fact, according to one survey, only 1% of marketing budgets tend to be dedicated to internal communications.

That’s problematic in more ways than one. We know about the importance of internal communications, which drives anything from employee engagement to customer satisfaction. We also know that the tactics necessary to make a tangible impact tend to cost more than the average budget available.

Long-term, that requires comprehensive solutions. Making a case for the investment by showing the success of a need for internal communications has to be part of the equation. But what do you do in the meantime as you seek to optimize your opportunities on a limited budget?

Fortunately, skilled communications professionals can overcome these low budgets and still deliver tangible results. They leverage sometimes un-heralded processes, channels, and partners in the process. This is how they do it.

1) Follow a Clear Strategy

A clear-cut, written strategy is important regardless of your budget. If you lack the funds for major initiatives, it becomes even more impactful. At its best, your internal communications strategy should include:

  • A clear purpose. Why are you communicating with your employees?
  • Defined goals. What exactly are you trying to achieve?
  • A definition of your audience, beyond the basics.
  • A roadmap for achieving your goals, with regular benchmarks tied to business objectives.
  • An outline of the channels available to you for a low cost.
  • A content calendar for the types of information that needs to be pushed to your various groups.

Follow that strategy, and you will have success in reaching your employees even without major funds attached. You know your audience, what to communicate to them, and how to measure success or make adjustments where needed.

2) Leverage Existing Communications Channels

Among the above strategic parts, your communications channels deserve further attention. Chances are that, even without an investment, you already have an arsenal of tools on your side to talk to your employees. 

That might be emails sent to all or some of your employees. It might include posters and fliers on bulletin boards. You may even want to talk to your IT team about sending messages to your employees’ desktop computers. When you don’t have the budget for a comprehensive platform, it pays to get creative.

3) Build an Internal Influencer Network

Let’s be honest: most of your mass messages to your audience likely won’t lead to much success. We don’t tend to read all emails, especially when they’re not pertinent to current work. Bulletin boards are easily ignored. That’s why it makes sense to build an internal network of influencers who can help you amplify your message.

Ideally, these influencers come from all levels of your organization. At least some members of leadership should be in the network. So should representatives from all major departments and all levels of the org chart. Depending on the importance of the message you try to get out, these influencers can help you spread it to all relevant parties in a targeted fashion.

4) Personalize the Communication

We know that people intuitively respond better when the communication is personalized to their needs. That explains why the mass messages discussed above don’t always work. The alternative is a more personalized approach that speaks directly to your employees on an as-needed basis.

Getting to that point is not easy. You will need to learn about your employee’s individual needs, and how they fit the types of messages and documents you try to communicate about. It takes time – but it typically doesn’t take money. With the right level of time investment, you can build a powerful strategy designed to get each member of the organization what they need, when they need it.

5) Emphasize the Importance of Powerful Messaging

When you don’t have the money to optimize the channels through which you communicate, optimize the message instead. This is the area where even organizations with significant budgets can fail. Personalization is one way to make sure your message gets heard. The message, itself, of course, is just as important.

From the subject to the final line, each word should be well-thought out, relevant, and engaging. Visuals can help get your audience’s attention, especially when used strategically and without overkill. A simple email message written in a compelling way will outperform posts on even the fanciest internal social networking tool when they’re written carelessly.

6) Listen and Respond to Employee Needs

Finally, devote extra time to making sure you know what your employees’ needs are. Are they getting your messages, and what do they think about them? Where do they see communication vacuums, and what improvement suggestions would they make to improve it over time?

Building a comprehensive listening strategy can help you get some of these answers. The answers, in return, allow you to improve your strategy over time. Crucially, they might also serve as evidence in a larger budget request: if your employees are clamoring for a central information hub, why not propose a solution in the form of an intranet?

Are You Ready to Build a More Comprehensive Internal Communications Strategy?

All of the above strategies have been used, and to great success, without a major investment. Still, of course, there is a ceiling to their effectiveness. Organizations who truly want to leverage the benefits of internal communications have to make the necessary investment.

For instance, leveraging existing communications channels makes sense – but a simple email or poster in the hallway may never grab your employees’ attention. An intranet, on the other hand, can give them a reason to engage with you. Naturally, that also costs more.

Good internal communications strategies are possible with minimal budgets. Great strategies, on the other hand, require an investment. When you’re ready to start talking about building that strategy, contact us. Regardless of your budget, we can find a solution that helps you optimize your opportunities within your organization.

By Katlin Walters

Katlin is a former IC team member.